Rafe Griffin (@rafegriffin)
It seems every tournament needs a ‘group of death’ and Group A fits the bill in this year’s BLK Silver Boot. The NPL’s Brisbane Strikers and Olympic made the finals of that competition in each of the three years of its existence.
The BPL’s Mitchelton finished in the top four last year while Logan had a fast start last year before petering out but have made some shrewd recruitment in the off-season to bolster their ranks.
Kevin A’Herne-Evans has lost key talent in the off-season with defenders Cameron Draper and David Salin moving on from the club while the left-wing combination of Greg King and Scot Coulson went to Brisbane City.
To counter-balance that though, some impressive signings have been made with Jake McLean, who featured heavily in Olympic’s 2014 FFA Cup campaign, returning from Victoria. Adding to the Strikers’ riches is the 2015 BPL Golden Boot Alistair Davis and BPL Gold Medal winner Shaun Carlos. Throw in ‘keeper Seb Usai who’s had experience overseas, Shelford Dais who was let go by the Roar and dominant striker Rhys Meredith and there’s no shortage of talent at A’Herne-Evans’s disposal.
The Strikers’ chances in the tournament appear to hinge on how quickly these new combinations can gel. It could be a matter of the Strikers gaining continual improvement during the tournament rather than being impressive from the very start.
The Strikers defeated Caloundra 3-1 in early December and scored a 2-0 win over Lions last Friday night.
After a year’s sabbatical Leo Sirianni, who guided the club to promotion to the Brisbane Premier League, returns to the head coach role. He’s indicated a change of playing style from that of former coach Sam Saif so it may take a little time for his squad to re-adjust and therefore they may be in the same boat as the Strikers in potential improvement during the tournament.
He’ll have the benefit of the core of last year’s players returning with names such as Tim Lawson, Jay Mehmet, Michael McGowan, Nick Benardi and Paul Swithenbank all re-committing.
After starting last year at the club before ending up at the NPL’s Sunshine Coast Fire, ‘keeper Kevin Downes will be welcomed back while Josh McVey from the Strikers and the creative Steven Chester from Taringa come with good credentials.
The Mustangs have defeated fellow BPL side North Pine 3-0 and lost to Moreton Bay 2-1 so far in their pre-season preparations.
As mentioned, Nick Croydon has been on a recruitment drive in the off-season. Doug Blaikie from Taringa will provide steady hands in goal while the Sherwood brothers, Jake and Josh, have been lured from Capalaba.
Croydon will also have stability in his line-up with the bulk of his 2015 squad returning. Key amongst those could be Phil Randall. Beset by injuries in the past two seasons, his size and strength poses issues for opposition defences and his availability could be important in whether Logan can repeat last year’s semi-final appearance at this tournament.
Logan have played three trials to date, going down 3-1 to Gold Coast City before defeating 2015 NPL Premiers Moreton Bay 3-2. Their latest match saw them lose 4-1 to Southside Eagles.
While there has been little official coming out of Goodwin Park, what we do know is that at least three influential players have left the club in former Roar goalkeeper Matt Acton, key defender Matt Byrne and influential winger Kazuya Ito.
If the side that Jim Bellas put out in a 3-2 trial loss to Lions is any indicator, it could well be a youth-oriented squad for 2016 so this will be the first test as to whether those youngsters can make the step up to the higher grade. Key amongst those will be striker Youeil Shol.
Player to watch
Shaun Carlos (Brisbane Strikers) – Carlos is no stranger to the confines of Lions Stadium having coming through the club as a junior and featuring heavily in the 2013 and 2015 Premiership-winning sides.
The 2015 Brisbane Premier League Gold Medal winner has taken a big step in the off-season in moving from those familiar surrounds in order to assist his ambitions of playing at a higher level.
He scored against his former club in the Strikers 2-0 trial win on Friday night.
Tip to progress to finals
Brisbane Strikers. They weren’t 100% impressive in their trial against Lions but took their opportunities to get the win. That might be the key quality required to progress from this group. Come back and ask me on another day it will probably be a different answer though given the quality of this group.
It could well come down to the final pool match again this year which would provide a nice synergy with Logan defeating Olympic last year to claim a semi-final berth.
Pool games (Tuesdays)
19 January 6:30pm Mitchelton v Logan
19 January 8:30pm Brisbane Strikers v Olympic
26 January 6:30pm Mitchelton v Olympic
26 January 8:30pm Logan v Brisbane Strikers
2 February 6:30pm Mitchelton v Brisbane Strikers
2 February 8:30pm Logan v Olympic